We're just two races into The Chase for the Championship, but it could be shaping up to be a two-horse race...
Sure, there are 12 drivers in the Chase, but if the first two races in the 10-race playoff are an indicator, it's the Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson show.
Martin leads the points standings by 10 points ahead of Johnson with the next closest driver being Juan Pablo Montoya, 65 points off the lead. Unless Johnson or Martin have a bad day, the title is theirs to lose.
Throughout the season, Martin has been the feel-good story of the year for NASCAR as the wily veteran has been at times dominant and shown signs that he could finally, after all these years, win an elusive championship.
And then there's Jimmie Johnson. He and his team just know how to turn it on this time of year, just as they did last week at Dover with Johnson having one of, if not the best cars. But it's worth noting that finishing second behind Johnson on Sunday was none other than Martin.
The recent night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway is still creating a buzz...
During his media availability on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon praised the fans at the Pep Boys Auto 500 for their support of NASCAR and specifically, Atlanta Motor Speedway. Gordon went on to point out that the races in Atlanta are some of the best races that NASCAR has each year.
The Labor Day weekend race was the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series night race at AMS and hosted a near-capacity crowd that saw what some fans have since referred to as one of better races at the track in quite some time.
"Atlanta was pretty eye-opening to a lot of us. We've seen a lot of empty seats at Atlanta in the past and to see the schedule change and go to the night race there and have that kind of a crowd at Atlanta was fantastic," Gordon said. "That, to me, is a crowd that track deserves. I think it's one of the best races that we have. And to race there at night and to be in the south I would just think that it would be filled up like that. It was nice to see that."
After 26 races, it's time to the determine NASCAR's 2009 champion through the Chase for the Championship...
This year's Chase could be the most compelling edition since the format's inception.
You have to first start with three-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson. He'll be going for his fourth championship in a row. Johnson is kind of like one of those wild card teams in the NFL or Major League Baseball playoffs. They may not have had the best record throughout the season, but you sure as heck don't want to face them in the postseason, because they know what to do when the pressure is on at the most important moments.
Then you've got Tony Stewart. He's been the class of the Sprint Cup Series this season, leading the points standings most of the way. Now he has the challenge of replicating that performance for the final 10 races. History has shown that at times, a dominant first 26 races doesn't always translate to a championship. Stewart, starts the Chase in second place, 10 points out of the lead.
The sentimental favorite is, by far, Mark Martin. He'll enter the Chase as the points leader and this year could be his best shot at a title. Sure, he has qualified for the Chase in the past, but he's much more than a contender to have a shot at the championship - he's one of the drivers that will have to be beaten in order to win the 2009 title.
And then there's Brian Vickers, who got into the Chase by the skin of a toothbrush. If anyone is riding a strong burst of momentum into the Chase right now, it has to be Vickers. Vickers had to scratch and claw just to get into the Chase. If he can keep up that performance, the fight for the championship could be very interesting.
As we put the first weekend of night racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, there is one thing that needs to be said to all of you fans - thank you!
The Pep Boys Auto 500 weekend turned out to be a rousing success thanks in a very large part to many of you fans! On Sunday, a near-capacity crowd came out to see night racing from the Sprint Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. We hope that you had as much fun seeing night racing and enjoying the atmosphere as we did! It was great to see many of you at the racetrack and also meet some of you. It's you fans that make this sport so great, and we have you to thank for a sucessful race weekend.
This weekend was a new experience for many of us here at AMS with it being our first night race. That's where you all come in. We'll be coming up with a way in the future for you to tell us about your experience at AMS, whether it be good or bad. Hearing feedback from you helps us put on as good of show as possible for fans!
Be sure to join us for both race weekends next year - March 5-7 and again on Labor Day weekend. This March, we'll have Sprint Cup qualifying on Friday, the Camping World Truck Series on Saturday and the Kobalt Tools 500 on Sunday. It'll be hear before you know it!
Records are being shattered here at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and it's not even race weekend yet!
If there were any doubts about the Pep Boys Auto 500, the first night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway being an exciting affair, those doubts have begun to be stripped away with the news of Atlanta Motor Speedway's ticket office having its largest single day of ticket sales on Monday, Aug. 31.
Without a doubt, the Pep Boys Auto 500 is gearing up to be an exciting race. You've got night racing, NASCAR returning to racing in the Southeast on Labor Day weekend, a pre-race concert with Diamond Rio and special guest Jason Michael Carroll and just the pure excitement of racing in Atlanta. Plus, you also have the Chase for the Championship positions at stake, including Kyle Busch trying to claw his way into the top 12 in the next two races.
This much is certain - the Degree V12 300 and Pep Boys Auto 500 will present an exciting weekend of racing in Atlanta, and we can't wait to have all of you fans here to enjoy it with us!
In case you missed them, here are the green egg location clues from the first two days. Be sure to watch our Facebook and Twitter pages for the remaining clues as we post them! For more info on the contest, go here!
Bound on either side by purple and red
A good place to rest and be Irish
The metal man is here
Big man, pretty girl is where you need to be.
Where charity is king
Everyone's a winner